Pay problems: What can you do when you learn that a colleague with the same job title as yours makes more money — besides go ballistic...

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Pay problems: What can you do when you learn that a colleague with the same job title as yours makes more money — besides go ballistic?

Frank Leonard of Aurora, Ill., a director of compensation, has some helpful insights.

First of all, Leonard says, it’s important to be aware that if you’re being paid less, it might be because your “performance, effectiveness and results produced are less than your colleague’s.”

That aside, Leonard says, make an appointment with your manager and ask “how my performance and results stack up compared to company standards and what you expect.”

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Take notes, and if you’re still sure you’re doing a good job, then it’s time, according to the compensation expert, to say to your manager that the other person “makes a lot more than I do even though we’ve both got the same experience, education, perform pretty much the same and produce pretty much the same results. I wonder if you’d review the situation.”

Leonard’s approach has worked, but with years of experience in his field, he also emphasizes that if you’re making less it simply might be because you’re “just not as good a performer as the other person.”

Which means that the employee you’re making less than might be “correctly” paid.

Fun and games: I’ve been hearing from readers who are asked what they consider very challenging questions in job interviews. These questions, applicants complain, are off the wall. What’s worse, they don’t know how to answer them.

Now a former university official offers some insight into so-called difficult queries and why job applicants are asked them.

One of the favorite questions asked by Lloyd Ahlem, a retired psychologist living in Turlock, Calif., was, “What do you do for fun?”

One candidate for a position as a biology instructor answered that he got “a kick out of kids who like to experiment with things.”

He got the job and “turned out to be one of the best hires” the department ever had, Ahlem said.

Another prospect, unfortunately, blithely responded, “Oh, I really like to drink!” Needless to say, that was no fun.

And no job offer was made.

Reference check: One of the reasons employers do reference checks is “to confirm that they made a good decision,” according to Catherine Beck, author of “It’s Your Career — Take Control!” (Davies-Black, $20.95).

“When someone calls your references, the last thing they want to hear is that you would not be a good choice,” writes Beck, a career consultant. “They believe their selection process gives them the best candidates for the job. They just want to be sure they didn’t miss anything.”

They also want to confirm that you gave them correct information and that their assessment of you is correct, she points out.

And there’s another major reason: They want “to uncover any problems in your past that could result in legal action for them.”

Examples of the possible problems include incidents of violence and financial problems, Beck says. And that’s why they check your driving record, credit history and criminal background.

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at ckleiman@tribune.com. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.